Recent Museum-ing (and Zoo-ing)

In the Beginning: Exhibit of ancient bibles from before the year 1000 AD at the Sackler Gallery. The earliest fragments at the start of the exhibit were what interested me most: a preserved scrap of Dead Sea Scroll, pieces of Coptic manuscripts of John and Matthew, parchments and papyrus and vellum with canonized and apocryphal texts on them alike, in Greek and Coptic and Syrian and Georgian, even a lovely spread from Codex Sinaiticus. The exhibit is wonderfully lacking in the breathless conspiracy revisionism with which “The Da Vinci Code” craze and the more recent “Gospel of Judas” exhibit have been so fond of creating controversy. Rather, exhibit descriptions present the manuscript samples in simple, straightforward history, passing neither positive nor negative judgment on the Bible or its faith, and subtly giving the lie to common fallacies like late authorship or constant change in the text.

The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas: Recent sculpture at the Hirshhorn Gallery. I wasn’t too fond of the free-standing pieces glued together from “found” objects, but Björn Dahlem was the exception. Very nice radial work.

Constable’s Great Lanscapes: They’re called “great” because they were six feet across and often preceded by oil sketches of equal size, but all in all I didn’t think they were that great. Lots of scale, but up close, not much detail that couldn’t have been experienced if the painting were smaller. One landscape which had had a rainbow added to it at a later date came dangerously close to Thomas Cole-esque mawkishness.

The Streets of New York: American Photographs from the Collection, 1938-1958: Walker Evans’ candid subway shots and Helen Levitt’s photos of children at play made the whole exhibit for me. I was expecting to see a lot more of New York as it was in the last century, but people seemed to be the preferred subjects over urban landscapes.

Asia Trail: The National Zoo’s new Asia Trail is a lovely addition, with large glass-enclosed habitats for Sloth Bears, Small Clawed Otters, and Fishing Cats, and huge spaces for the pandas. The winding paths are conducive to wandering, and the new footbridge makes access to the aviary much easier. I close now with a photo of the small-clawed otters, with a zoom in on the good bits:

Small Clawed Otters